DaRC wrote:The (D)Taoist worldview seems to hold the view that understanding is natural 'knowledge' whilst knowledge is unnatural learning. In many ways the concept is similar to Rousseau's view of the 'noble savage' or R E Howards stories where civilization is a corrupting veneer that takes us away from our true barbarian state which is at one with nature.
Hmmm. But do you think any learning can be truly "unnatural"? Sounds like the splitting of human culture away from nature. It's a distinction that has its uses, but it seems to me that as we understand ourselves to be part of Nature and understand that creating culture, myth, fantasy, religions, games... etc. are all part of our human nature, that we ought not characterize anything humans do as "unnatural." Rather, it seems to me an example of one part of nature sometimes working at odds with another. Take the chemical industry, for example. That whole field of knoweldge has revolutionized human material culture in the 20th century -- plastics, fertilizers, dyes, artificial fibers, pesticides, vitamins, and on and on. We are sometimes inclined to think of this sort of artifical creation as "unnatural", but in what sense? It depends on human artifice and creativity, true -- but is that not also part of Nature? The industrial processes end up harming the natural ecosystem all too often, true. But is that not just an extention of human waste and excrement? Is it unnatural for humans to have overpopulated their habitat and not been smacked down by natural forms of death and disease? Maybe the cycles involved are just bigger than we are used to seeing: not quite the same as the population and die-off cycles of other species.
What would you consider an example of "unnatural learning"? Do you think there is a noble savage underneath corrupted civilized human beings? I love Rousseau, but I don't think he has it exactly right. Can we put it in other terms that avoid a wholesale dichotomy between culture and nature?
To me understanding is certainly comprised of compassion but also of knowing that nature is not kind or compassionate. .
So, do you believe that compassion and kindness are uniquely human traits? How do you know? Again, I feel like you are separating humans from Nature rather than including them. I don't think anybody believes that Nature (as a whole) is always compassionate. Is anyone always compassionate? I sometimes thing that Islam sees Allah as always "merciful and compassionate" but I'm not sure of that. In Judaic and Christian theology God is composed of everything. I Kabbalah there is compassion, mercy, and justice. Even if we personify Nature as Mother Nature, I doubt many would arrive at a mother who is always sweet, kind, gentle, and permissive. Even my mother wasn't like that, and she's about as close as they come!
I'm straying from the topic here, but this idea of personification comes back maybe to the first line again about God, Goddess, Divine, Spirit, or Nature. The personification of the Absolute, or of Nature (a different sort of infinity?) brings us into a relationship with the Divine that very often ties into our experience of being children with parents who are vastly more powerful than we are. So, the tendency to speak of Fathers and Mothers when talking of divinities makes a lot of psychological sense. But the view of Mother as someone who is purely nurturing and always providing, always available, and never dealing out discipline and lessons -- that's an infantile fantasy that can only be rooted in the very first weeks or months of life -- maybe even in the womb. Once we are born, inevitably things begin to intervene and our rosy perfect world of constant warmth and food starts to fall apart. We strive to recreate it all our lives, I suppose, but its not exactly a fair view of Divinity, much less of Nature.
So, anyway, Dave, I wonder if what you mean by Nature isn't compassionate and kind is rather than Nature is many things? Or do you think we are better off to get away from personification altogether on the grounds that we are just anthropomorphizing Nature -- projecting emotions onto organisms that don't really share our complex feelings?